by Lynn on January 19, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Theatre, a Back to Back Theatre Production presented by Canadian Stage. Playing until Jan. 28, 2024.

Written by: Michael Chan

Mark Deans

Bruce Gladwin

Simon Laherty

Sarah Mainwaring

Scott Price

Sonia Teuben

Directed by Bruce Gladwin

Composition by: Luke Howard Trio

(Daniel Farrugia, Luke Howard, Jonathan Zion)

Sound designer, Lachlan Carrick

Lighting designer, Andrew Livingston, bluebottle

Screen designer, Rhian Hinkley, lowercase

Costume designer, Shio Otani

AI Voice Over Artist, Belinda McClory

Cast: Simon Laherty

Sarah Mainwaring

Scott Price.

Provocative, challenging and brilliant.

From the production material: “Weaving a narrative through human rights, sexual politics, and the rise of artificial intelligence, THE SHADOW WHOSE PREY THE HUNTER BECOMES is a sly theatrical revelation reminding us that none of us are self-sufficient and all of us are responsible for the future. At the center of this exploration lies a fundamental question: If artificial intelligence took over the world, would human beings all end up living with an intellectual disability?

Written and performed by neuro-divergent actors interrogating the parameters of traditional theater and their own perceived disabilities, the three performers from Back to Back Theatre challenge contemporary presumptions about artificial intelligence and the human mind.”

This explanation from the production material provides a hint of the provocative work. It also brings me face to face with my assumptions and presumptions.

Scott Price is explaining to Sarah Mainwaring about touching. No one has the right to touch another human being without permission. He is telling her this not just as information but also for her protection. (interestingly, he does gently touch Sarah’s shoulder later in the show, without asking permission or without it being noted at all.) Scott notes private parts that are out of bounds. He speaks quickly. Sarah speaks very slowly. Surtitles of what they are saying are projected above the stage, although, with careful listening the audience will get it.

Scott is explaining this as they appear from the wings. His walk is an easy gate. Sarah Mainwaring walks with her arms flailing, her body slightly bent and her legs move in an exaggerated manner. I worry that she will become unbalanced and fall. I think a cane might help. This is my first erroneous assumption. Sarah Mainwaring gets to where she needs to go quickly, upright and without balancing aides. In other words, how she does it is none of my presumptive business.

There is a dolly of five stacked chairs which Scott unloads. He carefully places the chairs side by side across the stage. Joining them is Simon Laherty who enters quickly from the wings. The chairs are for a meeting. Scott, Sarah and Simon are the only ones attending. Scott begins the land acknowledgement for the meeting (not the show—that was done earlier by Jordan Laffrenier, the Associate Artistic Director). Scott carefully notes on whose land they are on. He tries to say “Wadawurrung” (are an Aboriginal Australian people living in the area near Melbourne), … but stumbles on the pronunciation. Scott corrects him. Simon tries again and stumbles again. Scott wonders if Simon even knows who the Wadawurrung are. And so in a compact, simple scene this Back to Back Theatre Company subtly skewers the whole notion of land acknowledgements—it has more to do with being politically correct and less to do with respecting the actual people on whose land they are residing. Another preconception dashed, nicely.

In the space of one hour Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring and Scott Price had us re-examining our ideas of intelligence, neurodiversity, ability, failure, acceptance, consideration, care, being different, success, self-worth, societal responsibility and respect. The cast does it with wit, subtlety, impish humour, deep thinking, philosophical musings and by challenging everything we ever thought of being abled or ‘disabled.’

The show poses the fascinating question: If artificial intelligence took over the world, would human beings all end up living with an intellectual disability? Artificial intelligence has taken over the world—one of the names is Siri—and the answer is obvious.

THE SHADOW WHOSE PREY THE HUNTER BECOMES is a brilliant piece of theatre that will make you rethink everything. I have no idea what the title means and I won’t ask Siri.

A Back to Back Theatre Production presented by Canadian Stage:

Plays until Jan. 28, 2024.

Running time: 60 minutes (no intermission)

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